Australian blockchain startup ShareRing has been announced as one of the founding companies of MOBI, a new consortium aiming to integrate blockchain technology into the automotive industry. MOBI, which stands for Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative, announced its formation in early May. It consists of four of the world’s biggest car makers– BMW, Ford, GM, and Renault group–together with German engineering giant Bosch, and car parts manufacturer ZF Friedrichshafen among others. They will partner with leading technological and consultancy firms including Accenture and IBM, together with other consortia and agencies such as Hyperledger and the Trusted IoT Alliance.
According to its website, MOBI has the broad goal of “using blockchain and related technologies to make mobility safer, greener and more affordable”. The accompanying press release offers further insights. Rather than implementing any one blockchain solution, the consortium aims to create an open ecosystem across the automotive and wider mobility industry, encouraging the adoption of common standards. This approach could see blockchain being used in areas such as vehicle identification and registration, within the mobility supply chain and in car or ride sharing.
This is where ShareRing comes in. ShareRing released its white paper in March, laying out its goal to become “the Amazon of the sharing economy” by tapping into a market that is said to have huge growth potential. It is developing a blockchain-based platform and smartphone app that will allow users anywhere in the world to connect in order to share any asset. The asset could be an apartment, a wedding dress, or time spent on freelance work. However, car and ride sharing, including the possibility of using ShareRing for courier and delivery services, is a major part of what makes them an attractive partner within MOBI.
How ShareRing will add value to MOBI
Despite being a startup, ShareRing has long-established credentials in the car sharing market. ShareRing founders, Tim Bos and Peter David, had the idea of a sharing network for all kinds of assets back in 2014, but were unable to realize their vision due to a lack of available technological means at that time.
They decided to focus specifically on car sharing as a low-hanging fruit of the sharing economy, and together they developed Keaz, now a global leader in white label car sharing. Since the more recent spread of blockchain technology as a means of enabling secure peer-to-peer transactions, they have been able to develop their vision of creating a versatile, global sharing platform.
ShareRing also brings blockchain development expertise to MOBI. The company is demonstrating its innovation credentials in the formulation of its own distributed ledger, which it is calling ShareLedger. One of the problems still faced by blockchain startups is how to build a product with potential for adoption outside of the cryptocurrency community, due to price volatility and the necessity of using an exchange. ShareRing aims to overcome this by using a dual currency system. The ShareLedger will run on a utility token called ShareToken (SHR) which will be used by those who have goods and services they wish to lease out. A second currency called SharePay (SHRP), purchasable with fiat currency, will be used as credit by those wishing to rent shared goods and services.
The ShareRing team foresees that this dual coin strategy will make the system a more attractive blockchain proposition to mainstream users who are not currently invested in digital currencies. It will also offset foreign exchange fees incurred by users in different countries, as they can transact in a common currency.
Users will access the ShareRing system using a smartphone app, currently in development. A user will register their asset, for example a car, including attributes like size, age, or model within the app. Geolocation services will enable those wishing to rent shared assets to browse what is currently available for sharing in their location at that moment in time. The app will also act as a wallet showing account balances. Smart contracts will manage the sharing transaction based on availability and transfer of funds and mutual agreement that the transaction has been done.
Further applications of blockchain in car sharing
Porsche is already reported to have been testing the use of blockchain technology in car sharing within the vehicle itself. Such an application could include automatically locking and unlocking the car, based on smart contracts that conclude only when (for example) funds have been transferred and insurance has been confirmed.
However, it is easy to see how the invention of proprietary technology in this area may create barriers to becoming a global offering for a company like ShareRing. By participating in a consortium such as MOBI, ShareRing has an opportunity to promote and ultimately leverage the potential of common standards in this kind of vehicle technology across the automotive industry.
Tim Bos from ShareRing said in a statement, “We are thrilled to be working with MOBI and its foundation partners to help define a safer, more secure and more accessible set of standards for the mobility sector.” He continued, “It is vital that we continue to see collaborative initiatives such as the MOBI consortium, with the involvement of such reputable players, to ensure the ongoing implementation and application of blockchain technology far and wide.”
The future of the automotive industry
MOBI will be headed up by Chris Ballinger who will take the role of Chairman and CEO. He joins MOBI from the Toyota Research Institute, where he held the position of CFO and Director of Mobility Services. Even before joining MOBI, Ballinger wrote that while self-driving vehicles may dominate headlines, they are only one part of the sweeping technological changes facing the automotive industry.